A local nonprofit wants to make sure that all kids have a chance to catch a fish over Memorial Day weekend.
Friends of the Cowlitz will be offering a free kids fishing pond for ages up to 14 at the Barrier Dam Campgrounds & Tackle Shop at 273 Fuller Road in Salkum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29, and from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on Monday, May 30.
Incorporated as a nonprofit in the late ‘90s, Friends of the Cowlitz works to raise fish in net pens at a fishery on the Barrier Dam and currently takes donations for that purpose.
“It just gets kids to fish,” said Fred Ming, president of Friends of the Cowlitz, regarding the reason for the event. “Some of them have never caught a fish in their life.”
Kids will be able to take part in this annual event free of charge, an event that will supply all the fishing gear they may need to catch the “big one.”
One of the reasons Friends of the Cowlitz brings the event back year after year is for the fun factor it brings, but also because it raises awareness about fish restoration, Ming said.
The pond is a portable pool that’s about 4 feet deep and over 20 feet in diameter. It’ll be stocked with trout provided by the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We have a grant,” Ming said. “Initially, the pond was through fish restoration, a grant from a tech foundation. They had the pond built and all that, and just donated it to us years ago.”
Any fish the kids catch can be taken home, but if a kid does not want their fish, they can give it to someone else.
Ming explained any leftover fish will need to find homes with people who want to eat them because Fish and Wildlife will not allow the trout to be released into the wild.
And the mission of simply giving all kids in Lewis County the chance to catch a fish is especially important to some kids, in particular, he said.
“An example is, last year, we had an autistic child come in,” Ming said. “He couldn’t speak (and) he didn’t really want to hurt the fish.”
So Ming set up the fishing line with a pipe cleaner for a hook, but the kid eventually signaled that he wanted to do the real thing.
“His smile on his face was priceless,” Ming said. “It made his day and his parents’ day that he had a good time, that he caught a fish.”